This testimony from Debbie Beebe of Fairfield Baptist Church in Eugene, Oregon, where Alan Gayle is pastor, reminds us that we do not always harvest souls the Lord puts in front of us. Sometimes they need preparation to open their hearts for the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. With that in mind, remember that Thanksgiving is an excellent time to at least plant some seeds with lost friends and family members. We might hesitate, thinking, "He or she will never let me share with them — they won't become Christians," but actually it may be that we are just intimidated to share for fear of rejection. We may view it as a "giant" that threatens to defeat us.
I love the song by Casting Crowns, "The Voice of Truth." It refers to David facing the giant and talks about stepping out of our comfort zone even when Satan keeps reminding us of the times we have failed. But the voice of truth tells us a different story; do not be afraid!
We may be with relatives who are difficult to talk to, but you may be the one person the Lord will use to reach them, even if it is through planting seeds. And remember to listen the voice of truth, not Satan, because Jesus can use anything we say about Him to begin to open hearts.
Our church's evangelism teams were going out to visit some of the people who had attended one of our church events. As we drove toward the address on the clipboard, I prayed, God, go before us and prepare the hearts of those You lead us to.
We found the street number and parked by the curb in front of the house. We walked up the driveway toward a young man in tan pants, a t-shirt, and sneakers who was shooting baskets.
Lord, make this boy receptive, I prayed.
"Hi there," our team leader, John, said. He asked the boy if his name was the same as the one on our clipboard. "Did you attend our church event at Fairfield Elementary?"
The boy's face looked blank at first. "Okay, yeah," he replied.
"Do you go to Willamette?" John asked. "My grandson goes there. Maybe you know him." They engaged in a lengthy conversation, discussing basketball and all the people they knew in common at the high school.
During a lull in the conversation, Robert introduced each of us. "We're from Fairfield Baptist Church," he said, and then he told him about our youth group.
"Do you attend church anywhere?" John asked.
The boy said he attended a nearby Baptist church, and then said, "And the pastor lives over there," pointing across the street. "Who sent you here anyway?"
"You could say this is a divine appointment," John responded. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure," he replied.
"In your personal opinion, what do you believe it takes for a person to go to heaven?" John continued.
Without any hesitation, he said, "Believing in Jesus."
Under my breath I prayed, Hallelujah!
"Have you ever received Jesus as your personal Savior," John asked.
Oh Lord, I know why we're here.
"Could I share with you what the Bible says?" John asked.
Lord, give John clarity.
The boy listened attentively as John went through the evangelism outline.
Lord, open this young man's heart and draw him into Your Kingdom.
"Would you like to ask Jesus into your heart and life?" John asked.
He looked like he was ready to say yes. However, as John talked about having a relationship with Jesus, a van pulled into the driveway. It was the boy's parents. John introduced himself and us and said, "Your son came to our church event, and we're out visiting people who attended."
"Our son has been asking a lot of spiritual questions lately," they answered. "He's been searching for the truth. We have friends who are Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and some from other religions. We didn't know what to tell him was right, so we suggested he search for the answers on his own. Then, he met the pastor across the street, who's been sharing the truths of the Bible with him."
"Can I share with you what the Bible says?" John asked. They agreed, and John went through the FAITH outline a second time.
Lord, this is great. Touch the hearts of these people. Take away anything that would hinder them from making a decision for Christ.
They showed interest in knowing the truth, and John talked with them for some time, emphasizing, "Putting religion aside, being a Christian actually comes down to having a relationship with Jesus."
No decisions were made that day, but I know seeds were planted. We are committed to going and sharing, even when we only plant seeds. We are confident that if it is not us, the Lord will send someone to harvest the seeds we planted.
Remember, at your family gathering, it's not about what you can do but what Jesus can do through you. There is no pressure to "make them Christians " — just ask them, "What do you think it takes to go to heaven?" If they are trying to work their way to heaven, I'm sure you can relate to that answer and can say, "I thought the same thing," and move on from there to tell them what you learned was the only way to get to heaven. Just share, and let the Holy Spirit go to work. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.
Bobby H. Welch is pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Florida, Strategist for Global Evangelical Relations with the SBC Executive Committee, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and originator of the FAITH evangelism strategy.